13 Signs of Bipolar Disorder

My History

Throughout my adolescence I struggled with undiagnosed bipolar disorder developing, causing intense mood fluctuations and difficult to manage symptoms. I spent countless hours researching to discover what was wrong with me and eventually found information on Bipolar Disorder. Suddenly my life made sense, and I spent the next few years piecing my experiences over time together to formulate the full picture which led to eventual diagnosis.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder.

Here are 13 signs of potential bipolar disorder. Disclaimer – I am not a doctor. 

  1. Periods of intermittent depression. If throughout your life you find you fall in and out of depression in a kind of cycle then it is possible that you may be experiencing bipolar depression, which cycles in nature and comes on seemingly without reason. It is key that the depression lasts for a certain period of time of at least two weeks and causes serious impairment in your life.
  2. Periods of euphoria. If in addition to periods of depression you also experience periods of your life where you feel really happy, full of energy, sociable and as if you depression almost couldn’t have or never happened you may be displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder, especially if one follows the other. I outline the diagnostic criteria for both of these episodes in my post about mixed episodes. 
  3. Randomly going off medicine. A common and frustrating element of treating bipolar disorder is the tendency to come off medication suddenly and without consulting a doctor and it turns out this is actually quite common. For me, I would go through a period of depression and be put on an antidepressant, then the depression would suddenly disappear and I would stop taking my medication, eventually leading to another period of depression where I may or may not seek treatment.
  4. Symptoms begin at an early age. It is common within bipolar for the first episode to be a depressive one which hits at a very young age. For me this was around the age of 14 I think where I reached major depression diagnostic criteria. This is extremely young and outlines how difficult growing up with bipolar disorder can be. For me this was an agitated depression closely followed by hypomania then retarded depression. At this young age the symptoms are also atypical, such as a tendency to overeat instead of under eat in depression. This then switches as you get older.
  5. Creative Bursts. Another common symptom among bipolar disorder is that during a manic phase you will feel a sudden rush of creative ideas an energy, and then lose all desire to create when you subsequently crash into depression. Often leading to numerous unfinished projects or un-started ideas.
  6. Irregular Sleep. A key thing to understand about bipolar disorder is it affects your internal clock and this can lead to a reduced need for sleep during mania and an increased need for sleep during depression. However one thing I have noticed is that mania can be just as exhausting, it makes no sense to think the body can withstand that pace without getting tired, you just can’t rest or sleep when you need to!
  7. Having experiences of impulsive behaviour. Within bipolar disorder mania can lead to an increased impulsivity that can lead us to impulsively act or behave in ways we shouldn’t, over spending, hyper sexuality, irritable outbursts etc. If you experience these this could lead to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, especially if these experiences feel as though they are outside of reality – not really ‘you’.
  8. Having a diagnosis of Depression or Borderline Personality Disorder. Bipolar disorder is incredibly difficult to diagnose partly due to the crossover of symptoms between these disorders. A staggering amount of people are misdiagnosed with one of these two disorders before the correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
  9. Experiencing extreme empathy. This is not commonly identified as a symptom of bipolar disorder yet turns out many people experience feeling extreme empathy for all of those around them and this is so true for me. I feel everything stronger, if I see a homeless person I feel pain, hurt, sadness, loneliness, abandonment, disappointment, etc. This allows me to be in tune to the emotional needs of my loved ones and is something I value about the disorder despite how painful it can be.
  10. Being high functioning. It is a myth that all bipolar’s are unable to work, achieve in life or love or any aspect they desire. In fact there are so many historical geniuses, artists, actors, etc. who have bipolar disorder which has accelerated their careers even further in mania. If you are high functioning and are being invalidated because of it fight back, explain how you are just barely managing to hold on, ask if you really need to have a break down to be taken seriously.
  11. Having an identity crisis. A difficult element of bipolar disorder that actually led to my misdiagnosis is that I felt like I did not know who I was. With my moods shifting, so did my outlook, my perspective and opinion on life. How could I truly know who I was when I would feel so inconsistent? If you feel this way too a diagnosis of bipolar disorder may be the case, but I would avoid mentioning it as you run the risk of being hit with a ‘BPD’ label prematurely.
  12. Experiencing psychosis. Some people with bipolar disorder experience psychotic symptoms, some do not. I outline my experience further here. 
  13. Experiencing racing thoughts. Racing thoughts are where your mind is going so fast with so many thoughts and ideas that you just cannot keep up, it is overwhelming and makes it difficult to focus. For me I feel like my brain is like a beehive and the thoughts are little bees buzzing all over the place.

If you feel like some of these apply to you and that you may have bipolar disorder the best thing you can do is research it and fully understand what may be going on and seeking medical advice.

I recommend watching a YouTuber LizziesAnswers view on it as some of her experiences are similar to mine and are explained very well here. 

Photo by Jürn Hocke from FreeImages

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